The Black Plague
Review by Carl on November 20, 2023.
I've always had a thing for the early Krieg work, in all its raw and unrefined glory, so a compilation detailing their demo years was something that certainly was of interest to me. Even the work recorded under the Imperial moniker is featured, so I could not wait to hear it. As it turned out, most of it isn't all that.
The first track is a dreamy dark ambient-ish intro that sounds like early 80's Kraftwerk is trying out a new keyboard by pushing random keys. It's the kind of thing you'd hear as an intro on the early Blasphemy or Beherit recordings, but it does not really add anything special, so it's on to the following part of this compilation, the Imperial demo material, making up the next nine tracks.
Imperial dabbled in the most stripped down and simplistic black metal you could find at the time. Sole member Neil and some dude behind the drums work themselves through a set of tracks that remind me of Graveland's "Drunemeton" demo with a blob of early Gorgoroth added. It's simple and very raw, consisting out of not much more than a tremelo picked guitar driven forth by a drummer playing a shaky 1/2 rhythm while the vocals croak over the top of that. It's passable for the tracks "My Wanderings Through the Ancient Mists" and "Snowfall", but on the "Endless Path" and "Battlegod" demo tapes, Neil has taken over all instrumental duties, and yeah, ... these tracks suck. The music sounds as if it was recorded by a 13 year old who got into black metal the week before. The best parts of these recordings are actually the acoustic and keyboard intermezzo's, the rest is utterly forgettable, and a good example why in the mid 90's nobody here in Europe took US black metal seriously.
After the Imperial demo stuff we get to the birth of Krieg, and the music takes a small step forward. Still sounding as raw as bacon that got dropped next to the frying pan, but musically evolved somewhat. The repetitive (and boring) riffs from beefore have gotten a bit more fleshed out while the songs also got some more meat on the bones. It's black metal that still reminds me of the most primal and earliest output of bands such as Graveland, Darkthrone, Ildjarn and Gorgoroth, but because of the largely improvisational character of the music, it had me thinking a lot of Holland's Bestial Summoning as well. Playing is sloppy, the songs are simple and completely devoid of melody (and sometimes even structure), and the band limit themselves to largely copying what was going on in Scandinavia in the mid 90's, only totally stripped down to the barest essentials. In short: it's any serious critic's worst nightmare, and that's probably why I can appreciate this stuff pretty well. At their most aggressive, Krieg simply oozes menace and dementia from every orifice, but what this stuff also has, is that it exudes a feeling of darkness in a way that was slowly getting forgotten in the old Norwegian scene at that time.
It's from track 14 on that the band we'd get to know as Krieg started to hit their stride for real. It's where there are actual songs forming, with a musical execution worthy of the name somewhat. Mind, it's still raw, fast, unbalanced, aggressive and unhinged, while sounding as if the recording tape was sprayed down with bleach, but at least it's black metal in a way I understand the term. It's these recordings that would give way to the albums, splits and EP's that would puke the band Krieg on the map, for all to see, hear and experience.
"The Black Plague" is an interesting (and at times even amusing) compilation that documents the band going from crappy Norwegian black metal copycats going to a mostly improvising bunch of noiseniks that at times rise no further than the level of an Anal Cunt-ish noisegrind band, to being the raw and unhinged black metal force that would vomit forth abrasive albums like "Rise of the Imperial Hordes" and "Destruction Ritual". I am going to state that this is a release I play only seldom, because the majority of the material showcases a band in its most embryonal state. The most interesting stuff on this compilation are actually the intro's and sparse atmospherics between the songs, next to most of the final five tracks, and let's face it: that's far from enough to keep this guy entertained for long.
Rating: 6 out of 1032